We so enjoyed putting together last year’s My Favorite Things post for 2022 Black History Month — a collection of lists submitted by Black MEDEX Northwest students, faculty and staff of their favorite actors, movies, foods, music, tv shows, and books rooted in the Black/African Diaspora experience — that we decided to do it again this year for 2023 Black History Month: More Favorite Things. Community found in remembering, sharing and connecting.
MOVIES: Hidden Figures. I love this movie because it gives a positive message to black girls that they can be great mathematicians and scientists (or whomever they inspire to be). Three black women played a pivotal part in the space race in the 1960s and their stories remained untold for many decades. This movie provides hope and representation for black girls like me and shines a light to the beautiful things we can accomplish. I also enjoy movies created by Tyler Perry because I believe that he has a substantial influence in paving the way for more Black representation in movies.
FOODS: My favorite foods are Haitian legume and griot. Griot is the national dish of Haiti, and it is enjoyed with pikliz and plantains. Legume is a combination of eggplant and assorted vegetables, with beef stew, rice and red beans.
TV SHOWS: The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. I grew up watching this show and I really resonated with Will and his experiences because I too was sent to live with my aunt and uncle as a kid due to the living situation back home in Haiti. It was also nice to see a representation of a healthy black family of TV with children that looked like me. I also enjoy watching Abbott Elementary as it highlights the Philadelphia public school system, which has a predominantly Black population and many different people of color. It’s a modern approach with comedy and cultural enlightenment.
MOVIES: Best Man. I remember watching this movie when I was in high school and I instantly fell in love with it. I think the reason why the movie resonated so much with me was that it focused on mostly on the positive friendships between Black Americans. I think also it was the first Black movie I had seen that all the characters were college educated and had a focused career path. I think it was the first step toward creating an alternative narrative for what Black Americans are or could be.
FOOD: Soul food or Caribbean food. I grew up in the south, so soul food was a big part of my childhood. It’s definitely nostalgic whenever I eat it. It also has a history and tradition that is passed down through families. I was introduced to Caribbean food later in life. I am a sucker for anything with a lot of flavor. Although it is not Black American cuisine, a lot of the foods have African roots. I can appreciate the history and experiences that led up to the creation of many of their dishes.
MUSIC: R&B/Soul. This music has always been very moving to me. It doesn’t matter the decade it originated, I’m pretty sure I listened to all of it growing up. The thing I love most about it is there is so much variety even within the genre. From love ballads to dance music, you can find a song that fits your mood that day.
TV SHOWS: Insecure (HBO) or Riches (Amazon Prime). I can’t really say I have a favorite show, but if you are looking for a different Black story, I suggest these two. I appreciate any story that is outside the norm. I think the media tends to perpetuate certain stereotypes about Black people, so it’s refreshing to see alternative perspectives/stories.
WRITERS: James Baldwin and Octavia E. Butler. I discovered both of these authors in high school and still love their books to this day. I think what I love most about them both is the intersectionality that comes to play in their lives and work. James Baldwin was gay and Black in a time where it was more dangerous to be a double minority. I really respect his passion for advocacy and civil rights. Octavia E. Butler was a breath of fresh air. Before her, I hadn’t heard of any Black Sci-Fi writers or even read stories that included characters who look like me.
MOVIES: Raw by Eddie Murphy. This is not technically a ‘movie’, but I don’t have the attention span for those! Raw is hands down my ultimate, number one, favorite stand up special of all time. I’ve seen it dozens of times and it still manages to make me laugh. It reminds me of the joyful parts of being a Black kid in NYC in the 90s.
MOVIES: Berry Gordy’s The Last Dragon. I chose this movie because it represents an era of my life that brings me the most joy. The Motown soundtrack is hard hitting and the intersecting elements of Black culture and martial arts created a diverse cast of characters that I still enjoy. The movie gave me a young Black man protagonist that I could root for. It also showed the positive depiction of the Black family and a Black love story. Did I mention the music? There was De Barge. There was Vanity! And, lastly there is the powerhouse Willie Hutch’s “The Glow.”
FOOD: My Daddy’s (Keith Jerome Sturges) famous BBQ. It is a competition on who has the best BBQ. Well, hands down it is my Daddy. It’s an all-day to multi-day affair. Lots of pride goes into preparing the meats, sides, and the sauce. He uses an over 30-year-old “pit” that was made especially for him. BBQs are a staple in the Black community as these events bring us together for food, fun, dancing, storytelling, and laughs. I still look forward to a good ol’ BBQ.
MUSIC: Phyllis Hyman and Anita Baker. I love a big voice and I love when a voice resonates from the soul. Both Phyllis and Anita create stories and immerses the listener into their world. Phyllis will sing you to the moon and back with that powerful voice. However, if you listen closely there is so much hurt in her lyrics. Anita sings along a straight life with some of the clearest vocals that you will ever hear. These two legends remind me of Saturday mornings. This was usually the time when Black mommas and daddies would turn off all TVs and crank up the radio so that the whole family could clean the house. In my home, I recall Anita Baker’s “Just Because” and Phyllis Hyman’s “Living in Confusion” creating the soundtrack of the happy times in my childhood.
FOOD: Goat curry, rice and peas, and plantains. My grandfather was from Jamaica and, while I never met him, my father made sure we grew up with the flavors from his homeland on our tongues as much as we did the Louisiana cuisine of his mother.
MUSIC: A Tribe Called Quest is probably one of the most influential hip hop groups for me personally growing up. Their influence can be seen in the music industry to this day, especially within hip hop, rap, and R&B. The music and lyricism they masterfully sculpted out of the Black experience during the 80’s and 90’s cannot be matched, and helped plant and nourish the seeds of activism within me.
TV SHOWS: Family Matters is one of America’s most iconic Black family sitcoms. This show was a mainstay of Friday nights in my household and gave us the notorious character Urkel aka one of the OG blerds (Black nerds).
BOOKS: Teaching Community: A Pedagogy of Hope by bell hooks. Written by one of my favorite Black feminists, I find myself returning to this book over and over again as I continue my own journey of community building with my peers and colleagues. It reminds me of the work that still needs to be done on an individual and communal level to better society as a whole.
MY DAILY BREAD: The Marva Collins’ Creed. As I recall my childhood years in elementary school, each morning after reciting the Pledge of Allegiance, our class would also have to recite the Marva Collins’ Creed. Back then, I did not truly understand the importance of the creed until later in life. The following excerpts are daily affirmations and something I say aloud daily as a reminder that “society will draw a circle that shuts me out, but my superior thoughts will draw me in. I was born to win if I do not spend too much time trying to fail. I will ignore the tags and names given me by society since only I know what I have the ability to become.” This creed goes on to say, “my success and my education can be companions that no misfortune can depress, no crime can destroy, and no enemy can alienate.” And to this day, I remind myself that, “this is my time and my place. I will accept the challenge.”
FOOD: New Orleans Seafood Gumbo. The roots of gumbo do run deep in my family and in Louisiana history. Enslaved Africans were brought to the French colony in large numbers starting in the early 1700’s, and by the mid-1700’s more than half the residents of New Orleans were African. My grandmother would spend hours in the kitchen teaching all of us (including the kids… lol) the family’s gumbo recipe that she learned from her mother and grandmother. There’s no better way to taste that legacy than with a good bowl of gumbo!
TV SHOWS: Abbott Elementary (currently) and A Different World (growing up). Listen, Ava Coleman is hilarious on Abbott Elementary and something else. Lately, Ava is my ratchet spirit animal after a long day of meetings and being glued to my computer responding to the many emails I receive daily. “Let me see your phone. What is this? An iPhone 9? It’s like a Walkman. I don’t know nothing about this. That’s before my time.” Hilarious! You’d have to watch the show in order to get it. And who didn’t love the legendary show A Different World? This show impacted my decision to attend college, as it did so many young African Americans around the country. Not only did A Different World provide us, the Black community, with an opportunity to see Blacks in a positive light, but I’m sure the nation as a whole viewed us in the same light; we are more than a monolithic society. This show tackled some pretty controversial issues faced within the African American community, but somehow balanced those deep and heavy issues with lots of humor. This show was a staple in our household. Confession: I have each season on DVD.
MOVIES: Choosing one single movie as my favorite is a daunting task! Instead, it is easier to choose a movie that is so much fun to quote for my family and many Black people. Coming to America is a hilarious classic with some of the best one liners around. It’s one thing when my family and I banter back and forth, but I’ll never forget the reaction I received when I wore velvet to a wedding years ago. I made a quick stop and when I walked by a group of Black men, they said in unison, “What is that, Velvet?” We all laughed together, and I never forgot that connection — almost like an inside joke among Black people. It is “just” a movie, but it solicits Black joy for so many people.
FOOD: Southern traditions heavily influence many Black households, especially during the holidays. My mom makes the best sweet potato pie on the planet! When I bite into it, I know it’s Christmas or Thanksgiving, and I know the family is together enjoying soul food.
MUSIC: In reality, this is an infinite list, but I can easily single out some of my favorite Black female artists including Lauryn Hill, Beyonce, H.E.R. and Janet Jackson. The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill (1998) connected me to Black confidence, feminism, and the power of loving yourself. Beyonce has mastered creating music that not only empowers but shifts the culture whenever she drops anything. H.E.R. is socially conscious, embraces her Blackness and creates amazing soulful music. Finally, Janet helped kicked the door down for all the above! It is important to stand on the shoulders of one another to continue progress.